Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Incident at TJ's

There was a lesson on forgiveness in church on Sunday, and it got me thinking about an experience I had at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago. Dinnertime was fast approaching, and I realized I was missing a crucial ingredient. I rushed to my local TJ’s, only to find a car blocking the driveway. I beeped my horn at him and he moved forward a few feet, but not enough for me to creep past him into the parking lot. I honked again, then again. Finally he drove into the lot and I was able to get out of the street.

As soon as I entered the parking lot, I understood why he had lingered in the driveway. The place was a zoo, and there was nowhere to go. Fortunately, we both found parking places before too long, but I was starting to feel bad that I had acted so impatiently. As I hurried through the store, I kept my distance from the other driver for fear he would give me a well-deserved piece of his mind. I quickly found my item and got in the shortest cashier line. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him get in another line a few yards away.

By now I felt terrible that I had been so rude. I realized I should probably approach the man and apologize, but I worried he might respond angrily, or at least feel awkward that a total stranger was talking to him in a grocery store. I reasoned that it would probably be better to just let the matter rest, but that did not feel right. In the end, I decided that begging his pardon was the only right thing to do. I paid for my item then approached the other driver.

I tried to look as contrite and non-confrontational as possible, still fearing he would become furious as soon as he recognized me (don’t laugh—road rage is not a myth; someone once threw a hammer at my dad’s car on the freeway after he accidentally cut them off). I walked up to him and apologized for honking at him so much and not being as courteous as I should have been. At first he wasn’t sure what I was talking about. I related our encounter in the driveway, and he said, “Oh! That was you? I’m sorry—there weren’t any open spaces in the parking lot.” I told him I didn’t realize that until I pulled into the lot myself, and I was sorry I hadn’t been more patient. He told me not to worry, that all was forgiven. I thanked him, said it was a pleasure to have met him, and went on my way with a smile on my face.

I learned several valuable things from this experience. The first, obviously, is not to honk a lot at other drivers—if they don’t move after the first tap on your horn, there’s probably a good reason for it. More importantly, though, I learned that reconciliation can be a sweet experience. If I had just slunk out of the store with my regrets, I would never have known the peace of apologizing, or of having that apology accepted. I also would have missed the chance to meet a very cheerful, friendly person.

Lastly, I saw a clear connection between forgiveness and happiness. This man, who strikes me as someone who is happy and at peace with life, hadn’t harbored any resentment about my offense. He didn’t remember me and scarcely remembered the event, so it was easy for him to forgive me because he had let the matter go long before. We all have numerous opportunities to be offended in life, but if we let them roll off us like water off a duck I think we’ll be a lot happier.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Every Girl Should Be So Lucky

On a totally different note, I experienced yet another example tonight of how two heads truly are better than one when it comes to running a household. I have been trying for quite some time to figure out how to get the trash taken out on a regular basis. Phillip insists it is his duty as a husband to empty the garbage, but since we don’t generate enough trash to warrant taking it out every day, he often forgets to do it. I don’t want to nag, but I don’t want to be stuck cramming broccoli stems into a bulging garbage can either. I could take it out myself, but whenever I do that Phillip feels he has shirked his husbandly duty.

Faced with this domestic dilemma, I concluded that we needed a chart of daily garbage duties. That seemed straightforward enough until I tried to break down what would be emptied what day. The kitchen trash could alternate days with the diaper genie, but what of the bathroom trash and the small can by our desk? I devised all sorts of complicated sequences and algorithms for Hendrickson waste removal, but nothing seemed to work. Tonight I related my frustrations to Phillip, and he responded, “Why don’t I just check all the cans each night and see what needs to be emptied?”

So simple, and yet so brilliant. I’m so glad I married an engineer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Blogging Community

I was reading Sarah Flake’s blog recently, and was struck by one of her comments. She has been very busy with her newborn daughter lately, and she expressed regret that she hasn’t been able to read and comment on her friends’ blogs as often as she would like to. She said bloggers are a community, and she feels an obligation to participate.

I had not thought about blogging in that way before. I enjoy reading about what friends and family are doing, and I love getting comments posted to my own blog, but it had not occurred to me before that I am part of a community of bloggers and that I have a responsibility to interact and contribute. Bloggers post because they want to share part of themselves with other people, but they can’t share if we don’t come to visit now and then, and share our thoughts, in turn

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Social Implications of Talking about Yourself

My friend Beth's blog is fun to read, but it also gets me thinking. A few days ago, she wrote that since she's so excited about her upcoming move to Boston, it's hard to resist the urge to tell all the thrilling details to anyone who inquires how she's doing. When their eyes glaze over, she reins herself in and reminds herself that just because she's excited about the new endeavor doesn't mean everyone else is. Reflecting on this phenomenon, she observed that people are "interested (and perfectly rightly so) in their own lives. Because, honestly, first and foremost that's the most important (and urgent) thing you have to deal with."

In response to that post, someone wrote about an intriguing experiment they tried: "When I started a new job I refused to say anything about myself unless someone asked me a specific question. The result? People stopped talking to me because I was boring, was never able to make a personal connection with anyone . . ., and people felt uncomfortable sharing with me since I never shared with them.

"So I started talking about myself again and we were all much happier. People want to know who you are. People are what make life interesting."

I think that, by default, we are all interested in our own lives and it's easiest to talk and think about our own perspectives. However, conversations and relationships become vastly more interesting when we take an interest in other people's lives, too. It's a balance of sharing of yourself, and encouraging others to share back.

That's not to say that the people Beth knows are all self-centered or inconsiderate. I suppose when people are making polite small talk, they don't want a lot of detail about anything, however fascinating it may be. They're just exchanging pleasantries and making sure you're doing OK.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Busy"

"We’re all busy. Meditating monks in their cells are busy. That’s adult life, filled to the ceiling with things that need doing. (It seems only children and the elderly aren’t plagued by lack of time—and notice how they enjoy their books, how their lives fill their eyes.)" -- Yann Martel

A couple posts back I referred to Mr. Martel's plan to send the Canadian Prime Minister a book and a letter every two weeks. As I read the letter enclosed with the first book, I was struck by the above quote because it so precisely reflects my current stage in life.

I am endlessly busy. If I had five extra hours in each day, I still wouldn't get everything done. Even when I take time for some leisure activity, I do it at a frantic pace because I know it'll be time to return to the grind before I know it. And smack dab in the middle of my crazy life is a little person who is "accomplishing" a lot less and enjoying herself a lot more. Joy takes pleasure in simple things, and she's more interested in enjoying her journey than in getting through it as fast as possible.

Whether she'll continue to enjoy it probably depends a lot on me. As I rush to get everything done, I keep reminding myself to slow down, savor our time together, and nurture her sense of wonder. The dishes, the laundry, and my perpetual quest to tidy up our apartment ultimately won't matter nearly as much as the playtime I spend with her. And perhaps as I encourage her to drink deeply from the cup of life, I'll remember to do more than take an occasional, hurried sip.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Sweet Memorial

It seems paradoxical (at best) to say I enjoyed a funeral, yet so it was. My friend Siobhan's grandfather Roland Gene Scarborough passed away last week, and I attended his memorial service today. Everyone misses him deeply, but rather than focusing on the sadness of our loss, the funeral was a celebration of Gene's life. The stories of his down-to-earth humor inspired me to enjoy life more and look for the fun in things, as he did.

Even sweeter than the memories, though, was the conviction that this good man has gone home to the God he trusted and relied on so long. The scriptures say that when people leave this mortal life, "those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:12). Gene endeavored to do right by God and men, and I believe he has been lovingly welcomed into a beautiful place of rest.

We'll miss you down here, Gene, but we're sure happy for you.